blogger_who (blogger_who) wrote,

Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles 1.1 - Frostfire

Rewritten from material that I originally posted 5/17/13 on another forum:

Blurb: Vicki has a tale to tell.
But where does it start and when does it end?

Ancient Carthage. 1164 BC.
Lady Cressida has a secret. She keeps it deep in the cisterns below the Temple of Astarte with only one flame for warmth. And it must never get out.

Regency London, 1814 AD.
The first Doctor, Steven and Vicki go to the fair and meet the fiery Dragon, the novelist Miss Austen and the deadliest weather you ever did see.

But which comes first?
The Future or the Past?
The Phoenix or the Egg?
The Fire or the Frost?
Or will Time freeze over forever?

Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Vicki. Published by Big Finish Productions and released January of 2007.

Setting: Earth: London, England, February 1814. Vicki narrates the tale in Carthage, 1164 BC.

Continuity: This story takes place between The Time Meddler and Galaxy Four. There is no direct evidence for where this takes place with relation to other novels or audios set within the same gap. However, the Suffering has Steven indicate that the last time that he ate was 1066. Here Steven attends a party and eats some food, so this story most occur sometime after The Suffering. Vicki notes that St. Paul's Cathedral still stands in her time despite the Dalek Invasion and four World Wars. (See The Dalek Invasion of Earth). As Vicki narrates the story she refers to the events that had her part company with the Doctor and the TARDIS (see The Myth Makers).

Canonicity Quotient: This story agrees with all of the surrounding material, so it gets a rare continuity quotient of unity. 1.00

Discussion: It is completely and totally unfair to rate Frostfire based on other stories in the Companion Chronicles range. It was the first one and like any pilot they had not gotten the format down yet. Unfortunately there's no way that I can help from doing it. I've already listened to over a dozen audios and those are going to influence my impression on this story.

On the positive side, I loved listening to Marueen O'Brien recreate the character of Vicki. I could really imagine that this was an older Vicki narrating and when she reads her lines as younger Vicki she sounds just like she's 19 again. Like Carol Anne Ford, however, she has a difficulty with male voices and unfortunately stories that take place in history tend to very male oriented. Mostly though she doesn't bother to do voices while she simply reads the story as if from a book.

I loved the inclusion of Jane Austen and loved the idea that not only is the Doctor quite taken with her but that she was a tough lady that gives uppercuts to ne'er-do-wells and goes off on fantastic adventures with strangers. That felt like classic Doctor Who even if in the Hartnell era they would have only used her if it was tied up with a historical event of some importance. In fact, the characters are all fairly strong here and Platt seems to have a good handle on the Season 2B cast. Steven acts like Steven, Vicki acts like Vicki, and the Doctor acts like the Doctor of this period.

Some of the descriptions were well done, helping to evoke a moody atmosphere from the story. IMHO the best description was of Steven punching someone who shatters into shards of ice. Disturbing and vivid it helps to have the story come to life.

I am not a fan of the framing for this story. The "present" bits are way to intrusive, constantly breaking the flow of the story just so that we can hear Vicki and the Cinder gripe at each other. The whooshing sound when they go into flashback mode feels like a tired cliche.

I've never been a fan of the trend that was started in the novels and has carried over into the audios and new series to find that every companion that we ever meet has had a horrible life since the Doctor left them behind. Mel, Peri, Tegan, Sarah Jane, Jo, Victoria, etc. To be fair, Vicki is probably the one most likely to have had a bad life due to her naive decision to leave in a period where basic hygiene would have been unknown but with the surfeit of companions that we've had who apparently lived their last happy moment just before the Doctor and TARDIS left I just can't stand to hear it anymore. Hearing about how Vicki's been treated as a witch and how her husband doesn't understand her and how she basically regrets her decision makes me sad and I want to believe that traveling with the Doctor enlightens and ennobles individuals and leaves them in a positive place. This trend just leaves me unhappy.

Am I the only one who finds it beyond belief that Vicki is somehow able to keep this Cinder under ground and that no one will ever interfere with it for millennia until the 1800's or that indeed in a society where they consider Vicki to be a possessed witch or crazed woman that they allow her to have this secure chamber somewhere (the where is never described) that apparently she can only enter? Does no one ever go down there to check on it?

The ending doesn't make any sense either unless Vicki is wrong. It's clear that the implication of the story is that the Cinder becomes the egg and it is caught in a timeloop. They destroy the egg, Vicki gets the cinder in her eye, she takes it back in time, it becomes the egg, and etc. Yet, the creature says that it has destroyed hundreds of worlds by draining them of their heat. That implies an origin outside of the circle. Of course, if Vicki is wrong then coincidentally she takes the Cinder to ancient Carthage and one day the egg will land nearby but whatever happens to the cinder that has been taken back in time is not known. That logic flaw bothered me which is sad because it ruins what would have otherwise at least been a satisfying ending.

In summation, I liked Frostfire. It did its primary job which was to tell an interesting adventure story utilizing the characters of the Doctor, Vicki, and Steven as they were portrayed in Season 2B. It succeeded in that task but I'm not happy with the production or the framing utilized around it. I know from the others that I've listened to that this will improve.

Final Rating: 6/10

Recommendation:: It's a first, so if you do listen to it be kind. It's a competent story performed well by Maureen O'Brien and written by Doctor who veteran Marc Platt. If it sounds like I'm damning it with faint praise it's simply because there isn't a whole lot to say here that I haven't said above. It's good but it's not great. It's easily skipable but I'd recommend it over a true disaster like Fear of the Daleks.
Tags: audio drama, companion chronicles, dalek invasion of earth, doctor who, first doctor, frostfire, galaxy four, marc platt, maureen o'brien, myth makers, season 2b, suffering, time meddler, vicki pallister

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